Money wasted on empty council homes

A REVIEW is under way today after it emerged thousands of pounds were being wasted as council homes stand empty for weeks on end.Babergh District Council is losing large amounts of rental income by failing to hit its target of re-letting empty properties within 35 days.

A REVIEW is under way today after it emerged thousands of pounds were being wasted as council homes stand empty for weeks on end.

Babergh District Council is losing large amounts of rental income by failing to hit its target of re-letting empty properties within 35 days.

Instead it has taken the council an average of 57 days to re-let each property between April and June and 47 days from July to September.

Each seven days added to the average performance time loses the council around £5,000 of rental income a year and a report by the council's customer services department told Babergh's overview and scrutiny committee that the poor performance levels were worrying.


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It stated: “Rental income is being lost and the direction of travel is a concern. Performance is falling away.

“At a time when there is a critical housing shortage and the availability of affordable housing is a council priority that is an unacceptable situation and it is proposed that an immediate review is undertaken.”

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As a result the committee commissioned a review of the council's process for re-letting vacant council homes.

Gavin Fisk, Babergh's principal tenant services officer, said: “We recognise that there has been an increase in the time that properties remain empty. But there are definite reasons why that increase has occurred and good work is taking place to remedy the problems.

“It is an undesirable situation but we are making clear inroads into the problem.”

Mr Fisk said the reasons for the increase were a rise in the number of homes being returned to Babergh in an unacceptable condition, an unexpected and unexplained hike in the number of properties becoming vacant, and a change in the way the figures are recorded to include properties put aside for homeless people.

To tackle the issue Babergh officers will now be visiting all properties before tenants move out to check their condition, and charging tenants if the property is not up to scratch.

Should more be done to re-let council properties as quickly as possible? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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